Writing is one of my life’s passions. I put my heart and soul into each and every romance novel I write, and my blog is where you’ll get the inside scoop. You’ll learn more about your favorite characters, and I’ll talk about what inspires me. And when I start working on my next novel, you’ll be the first to know.
One of my Facebook friends recently posted about Hollywood, saying, in part, All I’m asking is that you give me good characters, not tokens, and good stories, not lectures.
Such is the sorry state of the entertainment industry today. It’s no longer about entertaining. It’s about using entertainment to push a political agenda, and it’s not going over well with the general public. I think this is why TV ratings overall are down, and why there were fewer butts in seats at movie theaters long before Covid came along. I’ve never been much of a sports fan myself, but lately I’ve been reading plenty of news articles about how television ratings for professional sports have dropped dramatically now that the various sports leagues have made it about politics instead of playing the game. People seek out entertainment because they want to take a break from politics and just be entertained, and when you use entrainment to lecture people they’ll simply walk away.
My contemporary romance novels are written solely to entertain my readers, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I wanted to lecture anyone I would write whatever nonfiction genre would be the most appropriate for the point I wanted to make. However, I made the choice to write contemporary romance. It’s my favorite genre, and like my readers, I simply want to be entertained.
Fiction revolves around conflict, and how the characters react to and resolve the conflict. That’s the essence of a plot line, regardless of the genre. I stick to the outcomes readers want and expect. Good overcomes evil. The antagonist suffers the consequences of his or her actions. However, I don’t lecture my readers. In my genre, contemporary romance, my characters’ goal is to resolve whatever issue the antagonist has created to keep them apart, but it’s a long, difficult journey and the long journey is what makes the story entertaining. I’m a storyteller. My job is to entertain my readers with my stories. I’m neither a teacher or a preacher, nor do I want to be, and I leave the politics to the politicians.
A question fiction writers are often asked is will they write a sequel. Some authors do write sequels or perhaps they’ll write an entire series of books, as I did with a series of novelettes I wrote in the 2000s as Gayle Martin. The Luke and Jenny series of historical novels for young readers was about two modern day youngers taking a summer road trip with their mother. Along the way they stopped at historical sites where they traveled back in time to learn the real history of the American west. While each book in series was about a different historical figure, there was an overall plotline that carried over each book; the road trip the two kids were taking with their mother.
When I switched genres and started writing contemporary romance novels I made the decision to not write sequels. Sequels can be problematic as they tend to be redundant and are often not as good as the original. My books would be stand alone novels and each story would end with complete closure. However, there were times when I created a supporting character who was interesting enough to warrant having his or her own story, as was the case with Jeremy in The Reunion. He soon his own book, The Journey, but The Journey wasn’t a sequel to The Reunion. It was a spin-off.
Simply put, a spin-off is when characters from one story are put into a different story. The late producer Norman Lear created a television show in the 1970s called, All in the Family. It was a huge hit, and those of you born in the eighties and beyond have no doubt heard of it or have seen it. All in the Family soon had a spin-off called, Maude, which in my opinion, was a whole lot funnier. Maude was Edith Bunker’s outspoken cousin who was first introduced in an episode of All in the Family. Interestingly enough, Lear later produced a spin-off from Maude called, Good Times, which was about Maude’s housekeeper, Florida Evans. All three shows were hits and ran for several seasons.
Hey, if it was good enough for Norman Lear, then it’s good enough for Marina Martindale. Along with The Journey, I’ve written two other spin-off novels; The Betrayal, another Reunion spin-off, and my newest novel, which I’ve just started, called, The Diversion, which is a spin-off from The Betrayal. It’s lead character, Tonya Claiborne, was a strong supporting character with a lot of potential. Look for The Diversion in 2021.
All stories have their antagonists, and in my latest contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, Randy Hall is perhaps one of my most villainous characters to date. Randy is the ex-husband of lead character Lauren McAllen, and his goal is to destroy her at all costs.
Randy and Lauren had a dream marriage until Randy developed an addiction disorder, leaving Lauren no alternative but to file for divorce once the marriage became toxic. Randy, however, doesn’t think he has a problem. He sees Lauren’s departure as abandonment, and, in Lauren’s words, “no one dumps Randy Hall and gets away with it.” As the story unfolds Lauren is unwittingly caught up in a major Hollywood scandal, which Randy skillfully uses as a weapon to wreak havoc on her life and her career.
Many of us have experienced relationships which started out well, only to unravel because, unknown to us at the time, the person we became involved with had an addiction disorder. Unfortunately, people with addictions don’t come with warning labels, and addicts are oftentimes masters at hiding their addictions until it becomes too late. Once the addiction becomes known some partners will end the relationship as quickly as possible, while others may go into their own form of denial, believing they can change the addict. It’s a great romantic fairytale, but one I will never write about, because the reality is that the only person who can change the addict is the addict him or herself. In the real world the so-called helpful partner becomes the enabler who reinforces the addiction, and the relationship typically doesn’t end well.
Randy is a composite character whose inspiration comes from a few men I’ve known in the past who, sadly, turned out to have addictive disorders. Thankfully, none were as toxic as Randy, and none of the relationships lasted long.
I know I haven’t been around much lately, but I have a really good excuse. I’ve been busy moving. I recently sold my home in Tucson, Arizona, (as The Beatles once sing about someone leaving their home in Tucson, Arizona), and I’m now living in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
I’m a native Arizonan and have lived in Arizona for much of my life. I was born and raised in Phoenix, which is why many of my stories are set in Phoenix. I moved to Tucson twelve years ago. Tucson was much like Phoenix was when I was growing up, although Tucson had more of an arts community. Unfortunately, in recent years Tucson has been changing, and not for the better. By the end of 2019 I knew the time was quickly coming for me to look for a new place to live. So, long story short, I came to Las Cruces because I have friends here; a fellow novel writer named David Lee Summers and his family. I’ve known David and his family for nearly a decade, and it’s better to relocate to where you know someone.
They say art imitates life, but it this case it was the other way around. In my latest contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, my lead character, Lauren, moves to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I describe her new home as being out in the country, with a mini kitchen in her backyard, and she’d found the home online. So here I am, a year or so later, and my real estate agent in Las Cruces sends me a link to a home that, while in town, backs up to a big arroyo, (a dry wash), with a large open space, making it appear as if it were out in the country. It also has a mini kitchen in the backyard. So, what else can I say, other than like Lauren, I really love my new home.
I’m almost finished unpacking, and once I’m settled I’ll start working on my next book. More later.
A few people have asked me if I’ll be writing about Covid-19 in any of my future contemporary romance novels. My answer is no, absolutely not.
This isn’t to say pandemics can’t be good subject matter for a novel. For some genres, such as science fiction, mystery, or thrillers, an epidemic can make for an interesting story with plenty of conflict and drama. (I read The Stand, and loved it.) However, I write contemporary romance. My characters are hugging, kissing and making love, which would be rather awkward in the age of social distancing. Erotica writers on the other hand might have fun writing, shall we say, interesting, scenes about masks or Zoom sessions, but I write sensual romance, which means most of the action in my stories takes place outside of the bedroom.
In the meantime I spent much of my time during the lockdown going over my earlier books, and, as a result, you’ll be seeing a spin off novel from The Betrayal. One of the minor characters in The Betrayal was a teenager named Tonya Claiborne. She appears in the latter part of the story, and she’s a strong character with a lot of potential for a leading role. I wrote The Betrayal in 2015, so you’ll be meeting an adult Tonya in the new book, which will most likely be titled The Diversion. The young Tonya was self confident but likeable, so we’ll see what she does when life throws her curveball and she goes off course. I had planned on The Rival being my next book, but I’m bumping it back until after The Diversion. So, it looks like I’m going to be busy for awhile.
In the meantime, in case you haven’t read The Betrayal, I’ve posted a free preview below.
I first visited Steamboat Springs in the 1990s. Famous for its ski resort, ranching is still a vital part of the area. So, when I wrote my first contemporary romance novel, The Reunion, I decided to locate the fictitious St. Eligius Ranch about twenty miles from Steamboat Springs. St. Eligius Ranch is a former cattle ranch turned horse sanctuary. It’s also the home of Laura Palmer, ex-wife of leading man Ian Palmer. A number of key scenes in The Reunion take place at St. Eligius Ranch, including the story’s final climax. Later on, when I wrote The Journey, I also set a number of scenes at St. Eligius Ranch.
I revisited Steamboat Springs in the summer of 2014, this time to research the area for future novels. I also brought my camera with me, and, as luck would have it, I found something that kinda sorta matches the description of St. Eligius Ranch. Of course I kept a respectful distance and took the photo from the side of road, but you can clearly see a two-story house, as described in the book, along with what appears to be a fifth-wheel trailer parked nearby, as was also described in The Reunion. Maybe life really does imitate art.
By the way, photography, like writing, is one of my life’s passions, and I do art photography under the name Gayle Martin. If you would like to see more of my work please visit my website at gaylemartinphotography.com/.
In the meantime, please enjoy this scene from The Reunion, as Gillian, the leading lady, visits St. Eligius for the first time.
* * *
Laura took Gillian to one of the small corrals outside the barn and pointed out a black mare with a white blaze down her face and three white socks.
“We call her Miss Mollie,” said Laura. “She’s got a lot of stamina, but she’ll respect her rider, as long as you know what you’re doing, and it sounds like you do.”
Jeremy came up behind them. “Miss Mollie? Good choice.”
Laura pointed to a large bay gelding in the next corral. “We call him Pretty Boy. He’s Jeremy’s favorite.”
Before long the horses were saddled, and they mounted up. Will stayed behind, saying he had work to do. Laura rode a young buckskin gelding she called Fred.
“He’s Miss Mollie’s son,” she said. “He was a young foal at her side when we adopted them two years ago. I think he’ll turn out to be a fine horse, but he still has some rough edges to work out.”
Laura led them away from the barn and onto a narrow trail leading through a lush meadow. Gillian couldn’t get over the sheer beauty of it. The aspen and cottonwood trees were turning gold.
“When I first came here, I was an ex-housewife who didn’t know one end of a horse from the other,” said Laura. “I was originally hired as a bookkeeper for Will’s veterinary practice. Next thing I knew, I was writing grants, planning fund-raisers, and doing everything else I could think of to keep money flowing in the door for the foundation to help care for these animals. Back then I was living in the cottage, that’s what we call the fifth-wheel trailer, and I soon became friends with Will. He taught me, and both of my boys, how to ride. He also taught me how to help take care of the horses. Along the way I’ve been kicked, bitten, and occasionally stepped on, but I’ve learned to cope with it. Horses are easy. Two sons aren’t.”
“Thanks, Mom,” said Jeremy.
“Anytime,” she said with a knowing grin. “Some of the ones we get are simply neglected or have owners who, for whatever reason, are no longer able to care for them. Those are the easy cases, and we can usually get them to new owners right away. Others arrive abandoned, injured or starving. They need some TLC, and we’re often pretty successful with them as well. We also get the occasional hard-luck cases. They’re the ones who have suffered some serious abuse, and it never ceases to amaze me just how cruel some human beings can be. They usually need complete rehabilitation, but we’re not always successful. There’ve also been a few that we’ve had to put down as soon as they arrived. Those are the ones that really break your heart.”
They continued across the meadow and began working their way toward the ridge as Laura went on with her story. “This ranch used to be called The Flying M, and it’s been in Will’s family for over a century. When Will’s father inherited it from his great-uncle, it was still a working cattle ranch. Will’s dad was also a veterinarian. He started up the veterinary clinic, and he started taking in injured and abandoned horses. By the time Will finished veterinary school, they decided to stop raising cattle and add a horse sanctuary to the clinic. They sold about half the acreage, and the name, to the big dude ranch resort next door. Will renamed the place St. Eligius. He’s the patron saint of horses and those who work with them. That pretty much sums it up. The foundation survives mostly on grant money and donor support. We also do a number of fundraisers throughout the year. One is coming up soon. It’s the haunted hayride we do every year with the Flying M. It’s the last Saturday in October and we always have a lot of fun while we’re at it. We have volunteers of all ages who come and participate, and the boys always come to help out as well.”
To read other samples from The Reunion, please click on the link below.
Photography is my other big passion in life, along with writing, and I’ve visited, and photographed, many of the locations I use in my novels. So while I’m working on the treatment for my next contemporary romance novel, I thought I would share my photos of some of the places we visited in my earlier books.
Portions of my novel, The Betrayal, take place in San Diego. In one scene two characters, Emily and Jesse, spend a romantic Christmas holiday at the Hotel del Coronado.
This historic hotel is a famous landmark with a reputation for being haunted. Kate Morgan, a young hotel guest in the 1890s, met an untimely end during her stay and her ghost is said to haunt hotel today. She’s even mentioned in The Betrayal. Then, in the mid-twentieth century, the hotel used as a location for Some Like it Hot, starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. Her ghost is also said to haunt the hotel.
By the way, I do my photography as Gayle Martin, and if you’d like to see more of my work please visit my website at GayleMartinPhotography.com.
To read a free preview of The Betrayal, please click on the link below.
Director Charles McKenna, the leading man in my latest contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, has been drawn to Lauren McAllen for some time, although she’s not aware of it. For the past few years they’ve been working closely together a top rated soap opera. Lauren, however, has recently left the show, hoping to break into feature films, while Chuck wants out of Hollywood for good.
The son of a set nurse and a director of B-rated horror films, Chuck grew up in the entertainment industry. He too thought he wanted a career in movies and television, but after years of grueling hours directing a soap opera, he’s burned out and no longer sure of what he wants. His plan is to relocate to Colorado once his contract is up. As much as he wants Lauren, having such different goals means any romance between them would be short lived at best, so he decides to keep it as just friends. Fate, however, has other plans for both Chuck and Lauren, as each experiences their own unforeseen tragedies which turn both of their lives upside down and will redefine their relationship.
To read a free preview of The Scandal, please click on the link below.
People sometimes ask me why I write contemporary romance as opposed to other genres, such as mystery or science fiction.
I write romance because we all have hopes and dreams and a desire to be happy. That happiness, however, often seems to elude us because of the choices we make, and how we relate to the people around us.
I create characters who are realistic and believable. My protagonists aren’t heroes. They make bad decisions and they’re left to deal with the fallout. Likewise some, but certainly not all, of my antagonists learn from their mistakes and they try to do better. Most, however, remain defiant until the bitter end. Either way, they too have to live with the consequences of their actions, and a few even pay the ultimate price for their sins.
The one thing you won’t find in my stories is gushy, gooey schmaltz. For those who like melodrama it’s out there, but that kind of storytelling isn’t my style. My inspiration comes from my own life experiences, and the stories others have told me. Readers feel the connection, and they in turn tell me how believable my stories are.
This is why I write romance. It’s the one genre where I can dig deeper into our relationships with the people around us and try to better understand the human experience.
I’ve recently completed a minor re-edit for one of my earlier contemporary romance novels, The Journey. I know. I’m turning into too much of a perfectionist. Occupational hazard I suppose. However, no worries for those of you who’ve already read The Journey. The story is exactly the same as before. All I did was some minor rephrasing and removed some filler words.
I’m also working on the treatment for my next contemporary romance novel. Its working title is The Rival. The story will be about a bride-to-be whose fiance abruptly calls off the wedding, and then, later on, decides to cause even more trouble for her. It’s part romantic triangle and part stalker, although it won’t be nearly as dark as my earlier novel, The Stalker.
In the meantime, I need to take a short break and catch up on a few other projects which have been sitting on the back burner for far too long. I signed up for some online courses, years ago, which I started but never completed because I was too busy with other projects. So, before I start my next big project, I want to finish them. I also want to take a few road trips later on this year. In the meantime, I’ll still be here, and I’ll still keep you up to date.